On Wednesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) declared a pre-emptive state of disaster for 30 counties, and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) set up a crisis task force to prepare for Tropical Storm Harvey, expected to make landfall in Texas on Friday night or Saturday morning as a Category 1 hurricane. The National Weather Service and state and local officials are especially worried about Harvey because it is slow-moving and expected to dump 10-15 inches of rain or more on Houston and surrounding areas over the weekend as it crawls northeastward. The National Weather Service issued its first-ever storm surge watch for Calhoun County, Texas, some 150 miles southwest of Houston, meaning that water could rise 4 to 6 feet above ground.
Harvey "could become the first major natural disaster of the Trump presidency," warns Eric Holthaus at Grist. "This is the kind of storm you drop everything to pay attention to." It has already been a wet August for the Texas Gulf Coast, and so the ground is saturated and primed to flood, while Houston is especially vulnerable to devastating floods because of poor city planning and lots of pavement, he notes, and the worst models have 20 to 40 inches of rain dumping on parts of Texas and Louisiana.
— Ryan Maue (@RyanMaue) August 23, 2017
Then there's the warming climate, Holthaus says:
Floods like the one in the worst Harvey forecasts have come at an increasingly frequent pace. Since the 1950s, the Houston area has seen a 167 percent increase in heavy downpours. At least four rainstorms so severe they would occur only once in 100 years under normal conditions have hit the area since May 2015. With a warmer climate comes faster evaporation and a greater capacity for thunderstorms to produce epic deluges. ... If Harvey's rains hit the coast with anywhere near the force of the most alarming predictions, we'd be in for disaster. And judging by how New Orleans and Houston have handled recent rains, coupled with the state of federal disaster relief, we're not ready for it. [Grist]
Air Force General John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), on Saturday at a national security conference in Canada said there are circumstances under which he would resist obeying a nuclear strike directive from President Trump.
"I provide advice to the President," Hyten replied to a question about a nuclear order scenario. "He'll tell me what to do, and if it's illegal, guess what's going to happen? I'm gonna say, 'Mr. President, that's illegal.' Guess what he's going to do? He's going to say, 'What would be legal?' And we'll come up with options of a mix of capabilities to respond to whatever the situation is, and that's the way it works. It's not that complicated."
Watch Hyten's comments below, and read about the recent Senate hearing on the president's nuclear strike authority here. Bonnie Kristian
Top general: I'd resist illegal nuclear order from Trump https://t.co/WxOhN3q1So
— POPTOP #tv (@poptopittv) November 19, 2017
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) was caught on a hot mic Saturday commenting that the Republican Party is "toast" if it becomes the party of President Trump and Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, both of whom are subject to multiple serious allegations of sexual misconduct.
Flake was speaking to an Arizona ally, Mesa Mayor John Giles, after a town hall meeting with constituents. "If we become the party of Roy Moore and Donald Trump, we are toast," Flake can be heard saying.
"And I am not throwing smoke at you, but you're the guy that could, just for fun — think about how much fun it would be — just to be the foil, you know, and to point out what an idiot this guy is," Giles replied. The mayor appeared to be referring back to a town hall question he asked about Flake running for president in 2020, a reference which would make Trump, rather than Moore, the "idiot" in question. After Giles' comment, a third man made Flake aware his microphone was still on so he could turn it off.
The senator has not been shy about his opposition toward Trump. In October, he announced he would not seek re-election to the Senate in a dramatic speech condemning the president on the Senate floor. Watch Flake's hot mic moment below. Bonnie Kristian
The Pentagon on Friday released data on sexual assault in the military from 2013 to 2016. Reports of sexual assault rose considerably during that time, from 3,604 cases in 2012 to 6,172 in 2016.
However, increased reports does not always mean increased incidents of sexual assault, as the Department of Defense estimates one-half to two-thirds of sexual assaults in the military go unreported. The DoD report argues the total number of sexual assaults actually declined from 2014 to 2016 — from about 20,300 to about 14,900 — even as reports multiplied.
This is not the first time similar data has been collected and published, but it is the first time it has been broken down by base, showing where each assault was reported. Among the bases with higher assault report counts were Norfolk, Virginia, with 270 reports in fiscal year 2016, 211 reports at a collection of bases in South Korea, and 199 at Fort Hood, Texas.
The Argentine navy has been unable to make contact with one of its submarines, a diesel-powered craft carrying 44 crewmembers, since Wednesday, Argentine officials confirmed Saturday. Naval authorities have ordered "all terrestrial communication stations along the Argentine coast to carry out a preliminary and extended search of communications," and the U.S. military is assisting the search with aerial surveillance.
The ARA San Juan has been in service since 1983 and has operated without incident throughout most of that time. It was on a routine trip up the eastern coast of South America to its home port of Mar del Plata when communications capabilities apparently failed without warning. The submarine crew did not send an SOS signal before going silent, and the ship was last seen near the San Jorge Gulf, about halfway through its journey from the southern tip of the continent. Naval policy dictates the sub should surface after spending this much time incommunicado.
The ARA San Juan is due to arrive in Mar del Plata on Sunday. Bonnie Kristian
AC/DC guitarist Malcolm Young died Saturday, three years after he was diagnosed with dementia and retired from the band. He was 64. "With enormous dedication and commitment he was the driving force behind the band," said a statement posted on AC/DC's Facebook page. "He took great pride in all that he endeavored. His loyalty to the fans was unsurpassed."
RIP Malcolm Young
He was the founding member of AC/DC & the engine that roared behind the most powerful band in the world.
He wrote Back In Black, Highway to Hell, You Shook Me All Night Long, Highway to Hell, so many songs...
Travel safely to the stars, Malcolm.
— Ryan Adams (@TheRyanAdams) November 18, 2017
Born in Scotland and raised in Australia, Young co-founded AC/DC in 1973 with his brother Angus Young as lead guitarist. "As his brother it is hard to express in words what he has meant to me during my life, the bond we had was unique and very special," Angus wrote in the Facebook post. "He leaves behind an enormous legacy that will live on forever." Their brother George, who also worked in the music industry, died last month at 70. Bonnie Kristian
The Navy on Friday confirmed responsibility for an obscene sky drawing made by a practicing aircrew over the town of Okanogan, Washington, northeast of Seattle.
— Alexander Tin (@alexandertinman) November 17, 2017
The crew of an EA-18G Growler attack jet flew the plane in a pattern that "left a condensed air trail resembling an obscene image to observers on the ground," a Navy representative said. "The Navy holds its aircrew to the highest standards and we find this absolutely unacceptable, of zero training value," officials added, "and we are holding the crew accountable" for the phallic drawing.
Beijing said in state media reports Saturday that "the traditional friendly relations between China and North Korea was founded and cultivated by both countries' former old leaders, and is valuable wealth for the two peoples." The comments come after meetings in Pyongyang between representatives of both governments Friday.
The timing of the talks so soon after President Trump's conversations with Chinese President Xi Jinping during Trump's tour of Asia has led to speculation that Beijing may have conveyed a message from Washington. Pyongyang said Friday that nuclear diplomacy will not proceed unless the U.S. and South Korea stop conducting joint military exercises. Bonnie Kristian